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First off I am visually impaired and I have used various Windows-based screen zooming applications.

Compiz Advanced Desktop Zoom is fantastic but it totally murders my Wine applications. Turning off desktop effects makes them work 100% perfect, but of course I now have no zoom.

So question is, can I zoom without Compiz? Is there any third party application for the job? E.g Qzoom in Windows. I am running Ubuntu 12.04.

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I'm surprised to hear that desktop effects have any impact on the functioning of your applications. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that wine flatly ignores your font size settings.

Anyway - Virtual Magnifying Glass and KMag look like they will do the job without requiring desktop effects. (the latter can be installed from Ubuntu Software Center)

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